Film Review: If only we could be as simple as 'Laal Singh Chaddha', the world would be better…

Despite serious campaigning against the film in India on social media, its success on OTT and global cinema halls, already have Khan’s cash registers ringing

Film Review: If only we could be as simple as 'Laal Singh Chaddha', the world would be better…

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

In a world where plainness and naivety are taken as negative traits, traits that won’t take you anywhere in life, Amir Khan Productions’ film Laal Singh Chadhdha, released this Friday, has glorified them as the best, a world can be lived better with.

And guess what? The film, despite running into some legal battles for “disrespecting Army” and anti Aamir campaigns over his estranged wife Kiran Rao’s old statement about her fear of staying any longer in India, is, but slowly growing on viewers.

The reason is simple. It glorifies simplicity over the guileful, genuineness over pretence, reliability over religion, devotion over deviation, love over longing, people over politics, and humanity over hate; so symbolic of what today’s India has been pushed into not believing in.

However, Advait Chandan, the director of the film, who also made another remarkable film 'Secret Superstar', Khan’s long-time associate, puts a condition over believing in such values or Utopian ideas – that you have to be slightly ‘mentally de-ranged’ to have all these qualities!

And therefore, the protagonist Laal Singh Chadhdha is a “slow learner”, whose mother (played by Mona Singh) teaches her that he can do everything, just by putting a little extra effort. His running therefore, most of which is inspired by the Hollywood film Forrest Gump is symbolic of putting that extra, while it has nothing to do with knowing why is he doing so! He is just doing it – is the only common element between Gump and Laal! Laal is an Indianised version of Forrest Gump, a fictitious story inspired by a few real people.

So, Laal with that extra effort, can break the shackle of the crutches on his feet, can run a marathon, and get admission into Army, stitch vests and briefs to perfection, knit like a woman, love like a simpleton and help like an angel, turn an enemy into friend, take bullying and sarcasm in stride.

Laal grows with all positive qualities and falls in love with Rupa (Kareena Kapoor) who, among all students mocking at him, gives him a seat in class and befriends him forever! While the simpleton Laal wishes to marry her, she aspires to “become rich” so she doesn’t replicate her mother’s life who is beat to death just for not being able to give Rs.10 to her alcoholic husband!

While Laal goes on to join the Army, learns skills of surviving and helping the humanity, Rupa joins the underworld dons to become a heroine!

The film runs you through Laal growing up witnessing 1984 anti-Sikh riots, assassination of of Indira Gandhi to unrest ensuing Mandal Commission, Adavni’s rath yatra to Babri Demolition to Kargil War to current political regime but through the eyes of her mother who teaches him not to come out of home during political disturbances and riots to keep himself safe and untouched by political agendas.

Though till interval all these narrations in bits and pieces make no sense and a link to his love story and aimless running, is terribly missing.

However, Chandan manages to bring home a point towards the end. And that is, there is no greater religion than love and humanity, live and let live, life is beautiful so keep it simple!

Why the film should be seen

Because it also manages to bring in some hilarious episodes for sporadic comic relief -- from including Shah Rukh Khan’s famous arm stretching pose that kid Laal has taught him, to Bala (Naga Chaitnaya) a simpleton friend of Laal in the Army whose only dream is to restart his ancestral “chaddi-baniyan business” after his retirement and his offer to Laal for a partnership, to Laal’s love for Rupa and gol gappas that knows no boundaries, to Laal’s running! He can run anytime, anywhere for anything or nothing!

The film deliberately chooses to keep dialogues simple too (by Atul Kulkarni) like “Meri mummy kendi ai, zingadi gol gappe jaisi hondi hai. Pait bhar javey, par mann nahi bharda” (my mother says, life is like gol gappas; it may fill the tummy but not the craving for it), Khuda aik taraf aur Khuda ko samjhne wale aik taraf (God is on one side, people understanding Him, on the other), etc.

I particularly liked the beginning in which a soft white feather leads the audience to locations where the story would be told in a background by a young Laal in a train, on his journey to meet his beloved, forever! Accompanied by a melodious and meaningful ‘Kahani’ song penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya, sung by Kannan to pleasant music composed by Pritam Chakravarty.

If anyone can steal your heart in the film, it would be the child Laal (Ahmad Ibn Umar), and Mona Singh, much less than Khan’s age but plays his resilient mother, convincingly, a powerful Manav Vij (Udta Punjab fame) as Mohammad Paji who acts potently with his eyes.

Bala (Naga Chaitnaya) for his comic timings is remarkable. And Kareena is spontaneous. Aamir Khan is being made to overdo a slow learner’s behaviour, to almost a mentally-deranged or special case. Chandan makes kid Umar do better as a slow learner than a matured Khan, is the greatest flip-side of the film.

You would find the film fragmented, too many incidents stitched together – from 1980s to 2022 - to make a collage that leaves loose ends. You may grope in the dark to make sense out of each incident attempting to join the missing links, till you reach the end of the film. However, it amazingly grows on you as you slowly understand the film beyond the helplessness of showing the bitter truths.

Despite serious campaigning against the film on social media in India, its success on OTT and global cinema halls, already have Khan’s cash registers ringing.

This is about love over hate.

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